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Coping With Anxiety

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"The Healthy Geezer" answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.

Question: I seem to be more anxious than usual. Is this something that increases with age?

Answer: Because the stress of health problems, loss and other major life changes builds up as we get older, seniors tend to become anxious. Some surveys suggest that one in five older adults suffers symptoms of anxiety serious enough to require treatment.

 Anxiety disorders in seniors have been underestimated. One of the main reasons is that older patients are more likely to emphasize their physical complaints and downplay emotional problems.

  Anxiety can have a psychological cause. But medical conditions, such as heart disease, neurological illness and thyroid and other hormone problems, can be directly responsible for the anxiety older adults feel. Anxiety can also be a side effect of certain medications. And seniors take a lot of medicine.

Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect an estimated 40 million American adults. Anxiety disorders are chronic; involve excessive, irrational fear; and can worsen if they're not treated.

Medication and psychotherapy can be effective against anxiety disorders. (Although medication won't cure anxiety, it can keep the symptoms under control, allowing people to live a normal life.) However, since not all anxiety disorders are treated the same, it is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine what's causing symptoms. 

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All Rights Reserved @ 2013 by Fred Cicetti.

Fred Cicetti is a contributing writer for Live Science who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter, rewriteman and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey: The Newark News, Newark Star-Ledger and Morristown Record. He has written two published novels:" Saltwater Taffy—A Summer at the Jersey Shore," and "Local Angles—Big News in Small Towns."